SMPTE maintains a multitude of standards for film gauges from 8mm to 70mm, covering all these parameters plus many others such as edge coding, analog and digital sound. SMPTE standards also cover lens mounts, spools, film processing and storage, cinema sound, and a plethora of other areas needed to ensure interoperability in a complex, global industry. The use of film is declining as it is supplanted by electronic imagery in both acquisition and display, however SMPTE film standards continue to form the foundation for the industry, and a level of performance that is the benchmark for digital cinema.
SMPTE Digital Cinema standards — from those for higher frame rate capture and production, with high-performance, fast compression, and pristine projection, to others supporting efficient, interoperable workflows, better security, and a consistent and engaging movie-going experience — ushered in the era of digital cinema and are enabling its rapid expansion.
Digital Cinema has been SMPTE’s ongoing opportunity to play a key role in the reinvention of a 100-year old industry. Early digital projectors proved the concept, while revealing a tremendous gap between the norms of existing electronic imagery and the demands of cinematographers. Lengthy investigations, and tests sponsored by The Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California (ETC@USC) and Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) supported developments in the SMPTE D-Cinema Technology Committee. This committee represented all industry sectors, had participants from more than 20 countries, and included experts on all aspects of the associated arts and sciences.
The result is a suite of more than 30 SMPTE standards and engineering guidelines that have enabled a rapid and successful deployment of digital cinema, and a more engaging cinema experience. When interest in 3-D peaked, SMPTE D-Cinema standards were ready to support it. The standards have subsequently been enhanced to support higher frame rates (HFR), as used in the Hobbit movies, and work is proceeding to add support for immersive sound systems.
SMPTE’s Cinema Sound Systems Technology Committee (TC-25CSS) is charged with the creation of SMPTE standards and recommended practices to address opportunities created by the many technical advances since cinema sound standards last were created, nearly 30 years ago. Through this work, the committee is striving to improve the quality and consistency of cinema sound, so that no matter which cinema you view a film in the experience is as close as possible to that of the mixing stage.
Digital Picture Exchange (DPX) is a common file format for digital intermediate and visual effects work (VFX). DPX provides a great deal of flexibility in storing color information, color spaces and color planes for exchange between production facilities. Multiple forms of packing and alignment are possible. The DPX specification allows for a wide variety of metadata to further clarify information stored within each file. DPX is the format chosen worldwide for still frames storage in most digital intermediate postproduction facilities and film labs.
SMPTE Digital Cinema Packaging (DCP) The cinema industry is currently in stage of transition. The current DCI Specification, version 1.2, recommends utilization of SMPTE DCP, particularly in regard to captioning, object-based audio, stereoscopic 3D, and higher frame rates (HFR). The SMPTE DCP also supports higher bitrates, dynamic 3D subtitles, Material eXchange Format (MXF), fully encrypted subtitles and auxiliary data.